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A response to Aleks Krotoski's 'The Rise of the eNation'

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Richard Brewer-Hay | 09:03 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

(Richard Brewer-Hay is Senior Manager of Social Media and Chief Blogger of eBay Ink. The following post is published with kind permission and represents Richard's views; this does not necessarily reflect the views of the BBC or the Digital Revolution production.)

Aleks raises some very interesting points by positioning eBay as an autonomous nation. At first glance, I would go so far as to say that the individual proof points do warrant more than their fair share of merit. From the social feedback system to the economic structure through PayPal, one can see how easy it is to make the leap. As one can also see however, from the resulting comments provided by @petehindle, @cyberissues and @TimFootman, upon further scrutiny the analogies end almost as quickly as they begin.

It is Aleks' reference to eBay's "development of smaller sub-communities" that I'd like to delve a little deeper into. At its core, eBay is one of the first (if not the first if you exclude email) social networks; connecting people with similar interests and applying online commerce to that direct connection. Ironically, in a world that has seen us move away from knowing our milkman, butcher, or postman and turned us into a self-serving society of faceless convenience, eBay - or rather the eBay community - has succeeded due in large part to the continued fact that people do want that individual connection.

This leads me to an interesting opportunity (or challenge depending on your viewpoint) currently being faced by eBay as we embrace the Digital Revolution.

The advent of the social web has built upon that original eBay ideal - connecting people online - creating virtual villages that introduce individuals with similar likes and views to one another, regardless of geography. The ubiquitous aspects of the new social web, although perfectly positioned for the personality of the eBay community, actually currently goes directly against the existing makeup of the eBay Marketplace infrastructure (currently no external links or social media widgets are permitted on individual listings).

To that end, eBay has taken an open and earnest approach to third-party development on its site through its Selling Manager Applications (SM Apps) program. I believe the company acknowledges that the eBay Marketplace must become more than a sequence of proprietary sites and embrace total ubiquity in order to fully realize its continued vision of connecting buyers and sellers online.

Rather than stand as an eNation, therefore, I would propose it's more important for eBay to continue its evolution into a confederation of virtual villages allowing its community to use whatever tools necessary to buy and sell what they want, where they want, when they want to. 


  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting how eBay was here before usenet, before dialin BBS's, before countless forums and fansites.
    And, of course before direct-connect, over ARPA and the like, and every darknet or fastsite or ftp with public write access.

    Well, the more you know...


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